Updated March 11, 2022 - 10:43 am
Early in a nearly three-decade career with the Metropolitan Police Department, Kevin McMahill, now a leading candidate for sheriff, was the focus of an internal investigation that led top brass to recommend that he be fired for misconduct.
Instead, McMahill rose through the ranks to second in command under Sheriff Joe Lombardo, a gubernatorial candidate who has endorsed McMahill in the race to replace him.
In a phone interview Thursday, McMahill denied that any misconduct occurred.
“It was a very difficult time of my life because it didn’t happen,” he said.
If the allegations were true, McMahill added, he never would have been promoted.
“I promoted every single rank, with four sheriffs at Metro, all very different, diverse people,” he said.
The allegations against McMahill, who retired as undersheriff in 2020, stretch back nearly 27 years to June 1995, when he and another officer, Bill Stoops, who was ultimately fired from the department, responded to a disturbance near what was then known as the Stratosphere.
According to court records and news reports, McMahill stopped a man and woman in the street before letting the man leave.
As McMahill and Stoops searched the purse of the woman identified as Carrie Lance, they found a pipe, crack cocaine, half a bottle of wine and a pornographic magazine, according to court records and an internal memo obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Show me your s——-, and I’ll give the wine back,” McMahill said, using a slang word for female genitals, according to the August 1995 memo written by then-Metro Lt. Stavros Anthony, now a Las Vegas city councilman and candidate for lieutenant governor.
The memo stated that the woman complied, and the wine was returned. Stoops then forced the woman to eat the cocaine before she was released, according to the memo, which stated that McMahill and Stoops later “denied these events occurred.”
Internal affairs complaint
Then-Metro officer Jennifer Clampit, the only woman on an eight-member squad patrolling the area at the time, reported the incident to the department’s internal affairs bureau and would later sue the department, alleging that an atmosphere of sexual harassment permeated the force in the summer of 1995.
Clampit testified during a 2002 federal trial over her allegations that she witnessed the encounter between McMahill, Stoops and Lance, who was wearing a skirt.
“And they made reference to her like, ‘Well, are you a hermaphrodite, do you have a penis?’ ” Clampit testified. “And she kind of joked like, ‘Ha, ha, yeah, I do.’ And they both chimed in together, asked her, ‘Well, show us; lift it up and show us.’ ”
Metro reached a $4,900 settlement with Lance, according to news reports at the time.
Jurors in Clampit’s civil trial ultimately found that the officer had been subjected to verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, but they ruled against her and did not find that the conduct was unwelcome.
During the trial, Anthony testified that he was part of an investigation into Clampit’s complaints.
“Once I received the Internal Affairs investigation, the completion of that investigation, I determined that both officers needed to be terminated,” Anthony said, according to court transcripts.
McMahill, who had by then been promoted to sergeant, also took the witness stand.
“I deny any of the allegations that Jennifer Clampit made,” he said. “I don’t deny the fact that Carrie Lance was stopped.”
He also said he denied the allegations during a pre-termination hearing for Stoops.
McMahill is vying to replace Lombardo in a three-way race for sheriff against former assistant sheriff and Nevada Assemblyman Tom Roberts and retired Metro veteran Stan Hyt. Roberts and Hyt declined to comment for this story.
According to financial disclosures filed with the Nevada secretary of state in January, McMahill was leading his opponents in campaign fundraising with about $1.3 million. He was followed by Roberts, who had raised $114,000, and Hyt, who had raised $8,830.
The department never fired McMahill, despite Anthony’s recommendation, though he was placed on administrative leave for more than four months during the investigation.
According to Anthony’s memo, the department performed polygraph examinations of McMahill, Stoops and Clampit shortly after the 1995 encounter with Lance.
“Officer Clampit’s came back truthful,” the document reads. “Officers Stoops and McMahill came back deceptive.”
No criminal charges were filed against Stoops or McMahill, who is married to Metro Deputy Chief Kelly McMahill.
On Thursday, Anthony said he did not remember the investigation.
“I was a supervisor at Metro for most of my career, so I supervised thousands of people,” he said.
In a separate phone interview Thursday, retired Metro Capt. Mark Tavarez recalled investigating the allegations as a sergeant and questioning the three officers.
Tavarez said Clampit changed her story during a pre-termination hearing and laid all the blame on Stoops.
“When she made her initial complaint, she lumped everyone together, Bill Stoops and Kevin McMahill,” he said.
Tavarez, who retired seven years ago, also questioned the reliability of polygraphs and said he thinks Kevin McMahill is “going to be a great sheriff.”
The candidate said he strongly supported the use of body cameras during his time at Metro, in part because of the allegations he had faced early in his career.
“I wish I would have had a camera, because it would have cleared me outright,” McMahill told the Review-Journal. “I would never be talking to you about this right now.”
Reached by phone on Thursday, Clampit stood by her original allegations and denied ever changing her story. She said she retired in 2008.
At the 2002 trial, Clampit recalled that Stoops, whom she had considered a friend, pointed a finger in her face after the encounter with Lance and said: “I got you now. You’re one of us. If we go down, you go down. It’s so good to have something over your head.”
She said she climbed into her car and left.
“I took it as a threat,” she testified, while sobbing, court transcripts indicate. “I was scared; I was intimidated. I didn’t understand what the heck they were doing. So it bothered me for a long time. I was so confused, I was hurt, I couldn’t eat, I had headaches. I’ve had nightmares of him for so many years and that he was going to slander me.”